Tom Gray and Mark Johnson first met in an Atlanta music store. When Tom tried to sell Mark a Dobro guitar out of the trunk of his car, the girl with Mark whispered, “Let’s get out of here.” Mark didn’t buy the guitar, but he and Tom exchanged phone numbers. Soon the two were getting together regularly, Tom playing lap steel and Mark on bottleneck slide guitar.
At first, neither gave a thought to the idea of forming a double slide guitar band. Then Mark saw Ry Cooder and David Lindley perform together at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. “It was like a light came on over my head,” Mark said. “I thought, that’s what Tom and I do.” The two, along with singer Gina Leigh and a rotating cast of drummers and bassists, formed Delta Moon. Their idea was to weave the two slide guitars into one big sound, in the tradition of great two-guitar bands like the Rolling Stones, the Allman Brothers, and early Fleetwood Mac.
Playing clubs and festivals around Atlanta and the South, the band quickly gathered a wall full of local “best” awards. After Delta Moon won the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2003, the band widened its travel to include the western US, Canada, and Europe. Gina Leigh left the band in 2004, and Kristin Markiton sang with the band for the next year and half. Then Delta Moon decided to continue as a quartet with Tom Gray writing and singing all the lyrics.
“I didn’t start out to sing lead in this band,” says Tom, “but like kudzu I’ve taken over.” Actually, he has plenty of experience fronting a band. In his pre-lap-steel days Tom was songwriter, vocalist, and keyboard player for a group called The Brains that recorded two albums on Mercury. His songs have been recorded by Cyndi Lauper, Manfred Mann, Carlene Carter and many other artists. As Mark says, “Delta Moon has found its voice.”
The new CD, Clear Blue Flame, features ten original songs and one obscure cover. From the opening notes of the title track, it is clear that Delta Moon’s unique sound is focused like never before. Tom brings his songwriting credentials to the table with a fresh take on his biggest hit, “Money Changes Everything.” New songs like “Blind Spot,” “Cool Your Jets” and “Life’s a Song,” show that his songwriting has lost none of its edge. The final cut, a classic Mississippi Fred McDowell song called “You Done Told Everybody,” demonstrates the genesis of Delta Moon with a recording of Mark and Tom playing acoustic slide guitars and stomping their feet in an impromptu session.
Other players on Clear Blue Flame include Tyler Greenwell on drums, Ted Pecchio on bass, Chris Long on bass and backing vocals, and Zeb Bowles adding fiddle on “Money Changes Everything.”